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IFA 2019: 5G, foldable smartphones steal show

Berlin: While IFA is Europe’s largest consumer electronics show, this year’s event had an interesting twist with unusual scene stealers from the mobile industry giving much-needed hype to foldable phones and 5G.

The trade show closed here on Wednesday after a six-day run, hosting over 1,900 exhibitors who showcased the latest televisions, home appliances and other gadgets ahead of the major holiday shopping season.

Alongside their latest 8K TVs, South Korean tech giants stirred up the competition to draw attention by releasing their innovative smartphones, which can be folded and connected to 5G, Yonhap news agency reported on Wednesday.

Samsung Electronics Co. displayed its revamped $2,000 Galaxy Fold after months of delay, in time for its launch in South Korea this past Friday only in 5G models.

After screen durability issues were raised by multiple reviewers ahead of its US launch in April, Samsung fixed the hinge and display design to reinforce protection of the display.

The South Korean tech giant now plans to release the phone in Germany, France, Britain and Singapore on September 18 and bring it to the US later this month.

The world’s largest smartphone maker also highlighted its broad 5G portfolio, ranging from chipsets and equipment to the latest smartphones.

The firm has released four 5G smartphones, including the Galaxy S10, Note 10, A90 and, mostly recently, Galaxy Fold, since the commercial roll out of the ultra-fast network in South Korea in April, staying ahead of its 5G competition.

“Samsung sold over 2 million Galaxy S10 5G phones in just five months of its launch,” Lee June-hee, head of technology strategy team at Samsung, said during Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon’s key note speech at IFA.

“With an expanded 5G line-up, sales of 5G products are expected to more than double this year,” June-hee said.

Samsung, which used US chip giant Qualcomm’s 5G chipsets for in its latest smartphones, displayed its own integrated 5G chipsets, the Exynos 980, at its booth.

The company said it plans to begin mass production of its first artificial intelligence (AI) mobile processor with an integrated 5G modem later this year for the upcoming smartphones.

Another South Korean tech firm, LG Electronics Inc., debuted its new flagship smartphone V50S with dual screen and 5G connectivity.

LG promoted the new device as a practical way to extend the screen size, without having to actually bend the display itself like Samsung’s Galaxy Fold.

The firm said its second 5G phone with a detachable screen upgraded its folding structure by adopting “free stop hinge” technology, which is designed to add the ability to stop and hold the second screen at any position.

LG said the uniquely designed phone targets young consumers who want to do more on mobile devices, including play games and shop.

Its latest phone comes as the Korean electronics maker has been desperately seeking to revive its smartphone business with 5G devices, as its mobile division logged the ninth consecutive quarterly loss in the second quarter.

While China’s Huawei is expected to launch the foldable Mate X next month, its smaller home rival TCL unveiled its latest version of foldable design at IFA. But nobody was able to actually touch the 7.2 inch concept foldable phone displayed inside a glass box.

Instead of displaying its upcoming foldable device, Huawei highlighted its advanced 5G chip technology amid political pressure from the US.

In an opening key note speech, Huawei’s consumer business chief Richard Yu touted the Kirin 990 chipset as the “most powerful” 5G integrated chipset, better than Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 series.

The Kirin 990 will power Huawei’s upcoming flagship smartphone, the Mate 30, which the Chinese firm hopes will rival Apple’s latest iPhones.

Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon laid out the company’s ongoing 5G strategy, which is focused on driving access to 5G devices and opens up potentially lucrative new use cases.

Faster networks are expected to help enliven the flattening smartphone market as more nations are rolling out 5G to drive innovations in various areas.

In Germany, Deutsche Telekom switched on its 5G network in five cities last week, marketing the Snapdragon-powered Samsung Galaxy S10 5G to early adopters.


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